Ginkgo

Ginkgo (Bai Gou, Bai Gou Ye)Ginkgo (Bai Gou, Bai Gou Ye)

Botanical Name: Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo is one of the best examples of a living fossil. The plant originated over 270 million years ago and has been cultivated in China since at least 2600 BC. Ginkgo is famous for helping with conditions that result in poor memory or conditions of dementia due to poor blood circulation.

Below is an overview of Ginkgo, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Ginkgo.

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Western

Western Name: Ginkgo

Also Known As: Fossil Tree, Maidenhair Tree

Organs/Systems: Brain

Key Actions: Antidepressant, Anti-stress, Antifungal, Antibacterial

Medicinal Uses: Improves blood circulation to the brain, memory, cognitive function, depression, anxiety.

Eastern

Pin Yin: Bai Gou (Nut/Seed), Bai Gou Ye (Leaf)

Also Known As: Ginkgo Nut, White Fruit, Silver Fruit, Silver Apricot

Meridians: Bai Gou – Kidney, Lung. Bai Gou Ye – Lung.

Key Actions: Bai Gou – Expels Phlegm, Stops Wheezing, Eliminates Dampness, Stops Discharges, Stabilizes the Lower Burner, Stimulates Jing. Bai Gou Ye – Calms the Lungs, Moves Blood.

Medicinal Uses: Bai Gou – Cough with copious mucous, vaginal discharge and turbid urine (caused by both damp heat and deficiency), urinary frequency, incontinence, and spermatorrhea, aphrodisiac, leucorrhea. Bai Gou Ye – Wheezing, pain from coughing, hypertension, coronary artery disease, angina pectoris.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Ginkgo biloba is the only living species in the division Ginkgophyta; all others are extinct. They are large trees that can grow up to 100 or more feet tall. It is deep-rooted with an angular crown, which grows broader as the tree matures. The leaves are unique among seed plants for being fan-shaped with veins that radiate out into the leaf blades, never forming a network. They are dioecious, with separate sexes; some trees are female and some are male.

Native to China, where it is now also cultivated. The trees grow best in well-watered and well-drained soils. The species shows a distinct preference for disturbed sites along stream banks, rocky slopes and cliff edges.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaf, SeedGinkgo (Bai Gou, Bai Gou Ye)

Flavors/Temps: Bai Gou – Sweet, Bitter, Astringent, Neutral, Slightly Toxic. Bai Gou Ye – Sweet, Bitter, Astringent, Neutral.

Caution: Ginkgo can interact with many prescription drugs, especially anticoagulants such as aspirin, warfarin or coumadin, so be sure to check with your doctor before taking it. Be careful of using in excess; should not be used long-term or in large doses.

History/Folklore: Ginkgo is one of the longest-living trees in the world, with some trees said to be living up to over 2,000 years old. The Chinese have prescribed ginkgo for asthma and bronchitis since 2600 BC. The ginkgo of today matches fossil records dating back 270 million years and it is native to China, where the tree is now largely cultivated. The first records of Europeans encountering the tree date from 1690, in Japanese temple gardens. Its status in Buddhism and Confucianism led to the tree being planted in many other parts of Korea, Japan and China.

Studies show that ginkgo seems to work by improving blood circulation, hence its ability to improve brain, eye and leg circulation. There is, as yet, no evidence that ginkgo treats high blood pressure, post-stroke recovery or altitude sickness.

The seeds contain substances that appear to be antibacterial and anti-fungal, though they also contain toxins that could cause seizures or loss of consciousness; more study is needed to confirm actual benefits and how to minimize toxic side effects.

The plant is so tenacious that a few trees living in Hiroshima, Japan, not only survived the dropping of the atom bomb at the end of WWII, but quickly regained their health and continue to grow there to this day.

Ginkgo nuts are used in rice soups, called conges, in Japan and China, and are very popular for weddings and the celebrating of Chinese New Year as part of dish called Buddha’s delight.

It is the chemical sarcotesta, in the outer, fleshy coating of the seeds, that can cause rashes or allergic reactions in some people, so wearing gloves while preparing the seeds is recommended.

Ginkgo leaf extract is used in cosmetics.

Good quality is white, full and round. The fleshy coating of the seed has a putrid smell, similar to rancid butter. The inner seeds or nuts have a fishy taste.

Key Constituents:

Phenolic acids, Proanthocyanidins, Flavonoid glycosides (such as Quercetin, Kaempferol, Myricetin), Terpene trilactones, Bioflavones unique to ginkgo only, and Polyprenols.
Did you know?

Remedy for Overuse

The remedy for overuse of ginkgo is 60 grams of boiled licorice (Gan Cao).
Facts

Roasted Ginkgo Seeds

Roasted ginkgo seeds that have had the pulp removed are considered a delicacy in China and Japan. (Remember: The whole seed is unsafe to eat.)
Fun fact!

Prized Fall Foliage

Ginkgos are prized for their fall foliage, which is a deep, saffron yellow.

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